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How to Strengthen the Security of Your Microsoft 365 Environment

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Security in the digital world is like locking your house: you don’t realize its importance until something goes wrong. When a data incident or breach happens, often it’s only then when businesses take stock of their security and shore it up into a more robust posture! Many businesses host a great chunk of their data in Microsoft 365, but they may not be aware of the security features that can be configured on the platform to ensure better data protection.

These features are accessible; enhancing your Microsoft 365 security doesn’t need to be a herculean task. Often, it starts by moving away from the default settings. So we’ve made a checklist of things that you can use to boost your Cybersecurity on Microsoft 365, let’s jump into it!


1. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

The most foundational step in securing your account is enabling Multi-Factor Authentication. Think of it as a double-check process. Even if someone steals your password, they would need a second method of verification, such as a code sent by SMS to a registered phone, to access your account. MFA ensures that even if a password gets compromised during data exchanges, there’s still another layer of defense.


2. Configure User Permissions on a ‘Need to Know’ Basis

The risks of breaches are magnified when employees have equal and unqualified access to company data. By configuring user permissions in alignment with their roles and the data that they need to access, you can better ensure that your data is protected by layers of defenses and is less at risk of exposure to prying eyes.


3. Use Microsoft 365 Defender/Advanced Threat Protection

Microsoft’s Defender (formerly known as Advanced Threat Protection) is designed to help detect, prevent and respond to potential threats in your MS365 environment in real time. It’s like having a vigilant security guard that needs no sleep; Defender will monitor files, prevent phishing emails, check attachments and links, and it can be configured with more secure security policies (more on this later), making it an invaluable tool for keeping your virtual workspace secure.


4. Educate Your Microsoft 365 Users

In many ways a security system can only be as strong as its weakest link, and it’s no secret that most cyber incidents happen because of user error. Take the time to train your team to follow Cybersecurity best practices, such as creating strong and unique passwords, learning how to recognize phishing emails, and securely checking links and attachments, plus following data protection requirements that specifically apply to your business. In this way, you can transform your team into one of your best Cybersecurity assets.


5. Secure Your Connected Apps

Many businesses integrate Microsoft 365 with CRMs like Zoho. In general, popular integrations will be configured with secure settings, but for less common apps, it’s worth taking stock and getting an audit from a managed service provider to ensure that integrations and data exchanges between your MS 365 environment and other applications are secure from cyber threats.


6. Implement Microsoft 365 Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Policies

Microsoft a dedicated compliance solution for 365, called Purview, which is a part of its wider business compliance solution. However, this does require paying an extra cost on your Microsoft 365 subscription if you do not have it already, but this can more than pay for itself for businesses working in regulated environments.

Purview’s DLP features enable you to define and apply data loss prevention policies that ensure certain types of data remain within your network. You can define what data is sensitive and prevent it from leaving your network, for example, information like credit card numbers can be prevented from leaving your Microsoft 365 environment, and administrators can be notified of attempts to send it out. You can also configure prompts that display to your users, regarding DLP best practices in your organization.


7. Regular Backups

Although Microsoft 365 offers some backup capabilities that can be configured, it’s also worth noting that having a separate backup solution in place can ensure that all or parts of your data can be restored promptly and reliably in the event of accidents or data breaches.


8. Limit External Sharing

You can set up more restrictive external sharing policies using the admin center, and through apps such as SharePoint and OneDrive. In SharePoint, you can authorize sharing policies for external users, and define how long link access lasts when users share links using OneDrive. In combination with Defender and 365 DLP, limiting external sharing can help to ensure that sensitive data remains with reach of authorized parties only.


9. Review Defender and DLP Reports

You can access audit logs (which are usually switched on by default) for specific user behaviors, which can be a handy tool for investigating incidents. You can also get access reports from 365 Defender and 365’s Data Loss Prevention tools.

View Defender by logging into your 365-security center. There, you can access reports for security incidents, alerts about suspicious activity, and user and entity behavior reports. You can access 365 DLP and its reporting features via Microsoft compliance center. Once there, you can see reports on where your defined sensitive data is being stored, incidents and actions relating to this data, and sub-reports into specific kinds of sensitive data within your DLP policy, and more!


10. Enable Safe Links and Safe Attachments in Defender

Within Microsoft Defender, you can configure safe links and safe attachments. Safe links checks URLs in emails and documents to see if they are malicious, redirecting or warning the

user if danger is found. While safe attachments checks attachments for malicious content, and quarantines the file if any is found.


Final Thoughts

Cybersecurity is increasingly essential in today’s world, including for retaining a competitive edge and business continuity. By upgrading your Microsoft 365 environment’s security posture, you minimize risks of breaches, lower their impact if they do happen, and enable your business to respond more effectively. By taking care of your Cybersecurity, you can focus on taking care of your business!

If you would like help with configuring your Microsoft 365 environment to enterprise-grade security standards, you can get in touch with the VBS team. We can help you to configure your Microsoft 365 environment securely to empower your compliance efforts with much more ease and control.

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